The New England Patriots scored four touchdowns against the Buffalo Bills Sunday in Buffalo en route to clinching the AFC East and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. None were more important than their first one, a 29-yard run by Danny Woodhead that gave the team their first lead of the game. The blocking scheme on the play was really something unique, as it wasn’t a straight mash’em up scheme or counter-type play. The key block was from TE Rob Gronkowski, who came across the formation to block the defensive tackle. What was unique about Gronkowski’s block was that he came across after the snap, when normally a TE will motion across the formation to be in position to make a block before the ball is snapped. Let’s take a look at how the play unfolded.
In the photo above, you can see what the formation looked like just as the ball was being snapped. QB Tom Brady is lined up in the shotgun with Woodhead to his left and Gronkowski lined up behind and slightly to the right of right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. Wes Welker is lined up in the slot to Brady’s left with Deion Branch lined up wide left and Brandon Tate wide right (I believe, can’t see who is out there in any camera shots). After the snap, center Dan Koppen moves to his right to double-team Marcus Stroud with right guard Ryan Wendell. RT Vollmer moves right and blocks DE Alex Carrington. The left side of the formation is where the play is going. Left guard Logan Mankins will just chip DT Torell Troup and then move left to block Chris Kelsay, who is lined up as a defensive end. Left tackle Matt Light moves up and blocks inside linebacker Paul Posluszny. In the meantime, Gronkowski moves across the formation and knocks Troup (who was just chipped by Mankins and then let go) out of the play. That provides Woodhead with a nice gap to run through to the left of the center (A gap). In the picture below, you can see what it looks like with Woodhead running and all of the blocks in place.
There are a few other keys which help this play turn from a successful run to a big play. Wendell leaves his double-team and moves up to block Akin Ayodele (#50). Safety Jairus Byrd follows the original flow of the play (to the offense’s right) and moves to his left, which leaves him out of position when Woodhead cuts back to the left. Light’s block on Posluszny is key because he allows Woodhead to run behind him and take the ball from the second to the third level of the defense. Deion Branch runs out and blocks the corner covering him while Wes Welker slides to the left, giving the appearance of one of those wide-receiver screens. That brings the nickel corner up to try and stop the screen, and he’s too far out of position by the time he realizes it’s a run play. The rest is Danny Woodhead making the cuts and using his speed to outrun the defense en route to 6 points.